It seems like everyone these days is trying their hardest to get noticed. Whether it’s on YouTube, Vine, Facebook, or even the old fashioned way like dress, accessories, and hair style, people want to be seen. Unfortunately, oftentimes it’s not done in the most flattering way. You can do better. One of the most important ways you can express yourself is on LinkedIn, the godfather of professional networks.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, I urge you to do so now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Ok, great. You’ve got an account, now what?
Now you have to start filling it up with all the great things you’ve accomplished and are doing in your current job. I won’t tell you how to do that, but I will give you 5 tips to improve your professional appearance and get you noticed on LinkedIn. And I’ll do it in five parts:
- Get a great head shot
- Write a memorable headline
- Use multimedia in your summary
- Tell your story
- Troll for recommendations
Today, we will consider your profile picture, since that is what gets attention first and predicts whether someone will take the time to view your full profile. You’d be surprised how many people do not have a profile picture on their accounts. And it is holding them back. Do not be “that guy”. Get yourself a great photo and put it on your page. I know it sounds superficial, but it’s true. People are attracted to a great photo. Here’s how to create your best look.
It’s important to spend a good amount of time and effort into creating a great head shot, because a lot of people do not know what they are doing.
First, here’s what NOT to do.
- Do not crop yourself out of an existing photo. It just looks bad. There’s other people’s hair, strange shadows, weird lighting, and everybody knows it’s a crop shot. No matter how good you look in that photo, it is not a professional image.
- Do not use a selfie. The problem with selfies is that cellphone cameras use a wide angle lens and it distorts your face, usually making your nose look bigger than it really is. You probably don’t want that. I mean people spend lots of money getting nose jobs to make their noses smaller. Why use a photo that makes it look bigger?
- Do not try to look intense, funny, or sexy. None of these look professional. You can use those looks for Facebook, or a dating site, but not LinkedIn.
Now, here’s what you CAN do to look your best.
- Get a professional (or at least someone with a nice camera) to take your photo. If you don’t have access to a studio with auxiliary lighting, get near a window or take it outside. Lighting is the number one factor for taking great photos. Just make sure you have enough light in front of you and on the sides. You don’t want strange shadows on your face or behind you. Oh, speaking of shadows behind you, do not stand with your back against a wall. You’ll look like you’re in a police lineup. Leave about ten to twelve feet between you and the wall to create a nice blur effect in the background.
- Now if you can’t afford or find a photographer, you can do it yourself. Most cell phones have pretty sophisticated camera and lens technology built in. I know I said not to use a selfie, but this is a modified selfie. You’re not going to hold the phone. Instead, place the phone on a stable surface and use the built-in timer or a remote shutter button. Just make sure you put the camera far enough away (more than 4 feet) to avoid facial distortion. You can always crop it later. Editing is easy and only takes a few minutes. And you can do it right on your phone.
- Now let’s talk about how you want to be perceived. A profile picture should promote three attributes: competence, likability, and influence. And there are three ways to manage those attributes: the eyes, the smile, and the composition of the photo.
- First, the eyes. If you want to exude competence, likability, and influence, wear glasses (not sunglasses, but eyeglasses), . You know, that thing you do where you squint your eyes just a bit, so you’re smiling with your eyes. Yeah, you got it.
- Next, the smile. If you want to promote competence, likability, and influence, you want to smile with your teeth visible. Just the top ones please, no full dental exposure required here. You want to look happy and inviting, not excited or frightened. By the way, the serious look with no smile drags all three attributes down. So go ahead and smile. It’ll get you noticed.
- And finally, the composition of the photo. How you are dressed has the greatest impact on perceived competence and influence. The best look is formal business attire. Not a tuxedo, but a suit and tie for men and a business suit for women. Basically, just dress like you are going on an interview. It makes all the difference. Additionally, make sure you are not zoomed in too close. You don’t want your face taking up more than 40% of the photo. Plus you want to show off your nice suit, so leave some space for the viewer’s eye to relax and enjoy the photo.
So that’s it for creating a great head shot. Let’s review.
- Get a pro photographer or set up your camera at least four feet away and use the built-in timer or a remote shutter button.
- Make sure you have plenty of natural lighting in front of you and on the sides to avoid shadows and reduce image noise and blur. Go outside if you have to.
- Remember to put on a suit, wear your glasses, smile with your eyes, and look directly into the camera.
These tips will put you head and shoulders above the competition and get people looking at your page on LinkedIn. Next time, we’ll dive into the second tip for getting noticed on LinkedIn, “Write a Memorable Headline.”
Until then, just remember, looking your best is the first step of success.